Friday, August 26, 2011

Nothing In Particular

I’m alive.

I know this is the longest I’ve gone without posting and many of you heard of our little earthquake so I’m sure you all were DYING to make sure I survived.

I did, and I feel like I should post something now, but my head is so clogged with grad school final paper stuff that my brain is mush. And I’m so tired of having to write in an “organized fashion” (insert air quotes ala Chris Farley here) and "actually be interesting" and have a flow in a paper that “makes sense,” that I think I’m going to rebel and just have this post be:

Dana’s Random Stream Of Consciousness!

(line above to be read in the same manner that circus people yell 'It’s The Greatest Show On Earth!'...and maybe with an echo, for effect.)

See below, in no particular order. Or rather, in any order of my choosing. Take THAT logical thought processes!

The sign in the ladies restroom at work says: “This Commode is not designed to accept paper towels.”

Ok - who calls it a "commode"?

And - designed to “Accept”? I’m not giving the “Commode” a tip. Or a compliment... (I’m also not giving it paper towels because THERE IS TOILET PAPER. Who would use a paper towel instead?! Ouch.)

I wanted to take a photo on my phone but realized then I’d be the creepo taking photos inside a bathroom stall.

Maybe tomorrow though.

I just noticed on the side of my Facebook wall that there is now a “On This Day!” box for random facts. Fortunately, mine was only that me and my friend Jim became "Friends" on Facebook “On This Day Two Years Ago!” (I know, fascinating...)

But I wonder where this will go. I’m picturing sobbing girls talking about how Facebook reminded them of when they first “became friends” with their ex, or maybe Facebook will start On This Day's for “You became Single again!” or “Joe Smith deleted you after calling you a pyscho hose-beast!”

Dangerous territory, Facebook. Bold move.

Did I mention we had an EARTH. QUAKE. In D.C. That ain’t normal. Can I list some of the 47.5 Not Normal things I’ve encountered since living here?
-terrorist attacks
-the D.C. Sniper
-a hurricane
-the worst winter D.C. has ever seen
-the highest temperatures D.C. has ever seen
-the worst earthquake D.C. has ever had.
-a PLAGUE of LOCUSTS! No joke. Well, maybe not a plague, but once every like 17 years we get an infestation of Cicadas. They are very similar to locusts and attach themselves to EVERYTHING (like the back of my skirt in Target. Ahem. I only knew this after a child screamed about it to her mother...) and they sound like crickets BUT WITHOUT A BREAK IN NOISE. They were here for like two weeks. I'm sure people went deaf.

And now we have a hurricane supposedly coming this weekend. I seriously can't keep up anymore.

Recent lesson learned: When I’m looking for running shoes and want to know how close to the end of a shoe my toe should be for optimal comfort, I need a saleslady who is actually following the conversation. Me asking her if she thinks the NINES that I have on are TOO BIG for me and having her say she didn’t think I needed to try a TEN is not so helpful. Especially on the third go around of that conversation. Her:“Oh I think 10 would be too big” Me: “Yes, well, I would assume so as well since I’m asking if NINE IS TOO BIG...I'm trying to get your opinion on if you think 8.5 would be too small” Her: “Oh you think 9 is too small?”

Me: Sigh.

After being so addled by that conversation, I proceed to make a fool of myself while paying. I purchase two pairs of the same shoe because they are buy one get one half off. I even confirm that fact with the cashier. Then when the cashier says “ok, these are $99 and these are $49” I immediately blurt out something like “Yeah, why is that? Shouldn’t they be the same price? They’re the same shoe.”

Her (now clearly questioning how I got myself to the store alone): “Because. They. Are. Buy. One. Get. One. Half. Off.”

Ah. I’m up to speed now, thanks.

I recently met a man who gave me his business card. It was all black and on the back it just said:
Get it.
I’m now considering doing something similar but putting better instructions. Like:
Buy her things.
I’m still working on it...

My coworker and I are awaiting badges for my new project site so we are left at the mercy of others to escort us for everything from letting us upstairs in the morning to letting us use the restroom (where the toilets won’t accept paper towels, no matter how nicely you offer). Today, when she and I came back after having the AUDICITY to get lunch, we couldn’t get anyone to escort us. We finally saw a random guy we recognized, but didn’t know by name, about to get in the elevator. To which we BOTH simultanesouly began yelling “OOOH! OOOH!” like kids trying not to be last picked for dodge ball. Pathetic. When we filed in sheepishly behind him, the guy asked what days we came in during the week...so he could work from home those days.

I’m really considering using this “numbering” system in my every day life. Just to keep folks on their toes.

I'll sign off now and prepare for the impending hurricane. I can't keep up with all the protection measures we need around here anymore so I fear my brain will do something similar this weekend that my friend Steve's did when he accidentally caught his sleeve on fire at a party and tried to remember the mantra "Stop, Drop, and Roll".


He could only remember "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"

Wish me luck, Internet....

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Daddy's little...Girl?

I've been in a funk lately. It's a combination of not having a steady challenge at work and not having a recent adventure (preferably of the International Trip kind) and in general just not knowing where my life is going. I finally reached the point where I think I'd like to "settle down" and get married (better late than never, right Mom and Dad??) but if you've seen any of my DC Dating posts, you can imagine why that hasn't happened yet...

So I've been thinking of crazy things. Like looking into the military reserves.

And that's only crazy because I'm a huge committment-phobe (see marriage talk above). And I can't say I'm totally seriously considering the reserves, but some days I do feel kind of serious and this isn't the first time I've looked into it. I always go through phases where I feel like I'm meant for something more challenging than a desk job. Something that not everyone is cut out for, or that is maybe slightly dangerous, or intense and secretive, or .... I don't know, something where I need a weapon! (Here's why that is funny: because the last time I shot a pistol I was sweating so badly from nerves that the gun nearly slid out of my hands when I pulled the trigger -- then a shell came up and HIT ME IN THE FACE, which you can imagine didn't help matters...)

And although I do typically thrive under pressure and love a challenge, I'm also very girly/giggly/southern-belle-like too so the only job that really seems to fit is that of a Charlie's Angel. And, I don't know if you know this, but they aren't real.

Le Sigh.

So instead I'm probably destined to a life at a desk job. Although I am grateful I've had some fun opportunities along the way like working in disaster response or that one time I got to walk over a Top Secret document to the "Sit Room" (the Situation Room in the bottom of the West Wing where all the cool stuff happens in movies and there are no windows and there are clocks on the wall with all the different time zones... You know the one.) And I'm grateful I have volunteer opportunities like construction work with Habitat for Humanity or volunteering at the military hospital here. But this whole "I need to get my hands dirty" obsession remains. And it's always been there.

I joke that I was my dad's "little boy" growing up. My sister never wanted anything to do with dirt, or rough-housing, or...the outside world.

She and my mom are much more Hotel People where me and my dad are more Tent People.

So I was always the one who would go on snowmobile trips, or 4-wheeling trips, or fishing, or play in my dad's dirty warehouse or try to drive a Forklift, etc.

...Or drive the riding lawn mower....up a tree. (Yes. That happened when I was little and there is embarrassing photographic proof at my parents' house. All the neighbors came out. And I'm pretty sure I cried.)

Come to think of it, just last year I also shredded a garden hose while mowing the lawn at my parents'. My dad had LITERALLY just said it was basically impossible to tear the hose up if I drove over it the right way... and I immediately drove over it the wrong way apparently. Huh. Perhaps I'm not the Lawn Mowing type afterall...I'm totally still doing it though because dad has the cool industrial mower that you steer with Levers. I heart it.

Anyway, I was the one who rode a little motorcycle around our back yard before I could drive a car and then I was the one to CHOOSE A MUSCLE CAR when I COULD drive.

And often my girly side would war with my tomboy side, like when I went on an All Male 4-wheeling trip in the hills of Tennessee that involved a giant rocky up-hill climb on which I ended up SINGING to myself IN MY HELMUT to keep from freaking the crap out and stopping halfway up (which could've caused me to flip over backwards down the rocks. So, a little important not to do that). When I finally got to the top, all blanched and sweaty, the guys CLAPPED for me.

But most of the time, I enjoyed the boy stuff. Like when my 4-wheeler started sinking into a giant mud hole so I FLOORED it, spraying mud skyhigh behind me - and all over myself - and I didn't let off the throttle until I finally came out on the other side. To which my dad wore an expression of shock and pure admiration and said "I did NOT know how I'd get that out if you let off so I'm so glad you stayed with it!"

Side note: My front axle once broke on a ride and my dad then drove my 4-wheeler off the mountain ON THREE WHEELS. Needless to say, he's my hero so I like to impress him whenever I can.

So maybe wanting to amuse my dad is part of the reason I continued to want to do "tough girl" things. But more so I just like a challenge. I feel like certain people are cut out to be pressed and certain people don't enjoy that at all. I like it, so I always wonder if I'm wasting that ...skill?...by not doing something less safe.

Like should I be doing humanitarian aid work in a war zone somewhere? Or building mud huts full time in Ethiopia? Female Secret Service Agent? (Come on, I pull off the vest, minus the I'm About To Giggle smirk, right? *this was taken on my first POTUS (President Of The United States) Advance job...when I was warned never to date an agent. Stealing their UNIFORM, on the other hand, was totally permitted.*)

If anyone is recruiting for Charlie's Angel type occupations, I'm all (sparkly earring-clad) ears!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Murphy, is there really no one else you can torment?

I've mentioned that I'm a victim of Murphy's Law quite frequently:

Murphy's Law (from Wikipedia): an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong".

I fear if I continue to tell about days like I had here, people will either stop believing me, or they'll grow tired of my schtick and only pay attention again if I one day have a post that simply says:

Today, nothing weird happened. At all.

And then everyone would start reading again because "did you hear that nothing happened to Dana? That is CRAZY!"

Sigh. But I promise, "What's With Today, today?" is the rule of my life and "nothing weird happened" is absolutely the exception.

I give you- Exhibit A: This Week.

I told you I was on the hunt for a new work project and I finally started one this Monday. Which, of course, always involves a learning curve - new coworkers, new clients, new people at the office you have to learn to watch out for, like the guy who told me he wanted to BITE MY HAND on a project a couple years ago...

You know, normal office stuff.

And you know how I had crazy computer issues a couple weeks ago? And met the hippies with the shark tooth here? Well hang with me; this is going to get convoluted ...

TWO WEEKS AGO: my personal computer got a virus and freaked out - when I was trying to turn in homework. The Geek Squad at Best Buy charged me nearly $200 to fix it but they added an anti-virus thingy (I already had tried TWO other ones....) and gave me a year's warranty and said I was good to go.

TWO NIGHTS AGO: I GOT THE SAME %*@#*$% VIRUS....also while trying to turn in homework. Seriously!? So my personal laptop had to go back to the Geeks.

Meanwhile, my work laptop is older than Betty White and not only takes 3 years to do anything, but sometimes it just freezes up for no reason. So I finally got my company to give me a new one, but I was told I needed to run out to one place to pick it up, then run out to a different place to have my data transferred.

YESTERDAY: I was only supposed to work a half day on my new project - but they ended up asking me to help longer...after I was already on my way to:

-Best Buy to drop off my personal laptop

-somewhere in Northern Virginia to get my new work laptop

-and the GAS STATION across the street to get my State Inspection done on my car....

....Why was that urgent you ask? Because I've now had two tickets for not updating my inspection and I could no longer plan my life around whether or not my car would have to be parked somewhere vulnerable to VA Police...

This is so how my life works.

So now I'm trying to do work in between all these things I'd meant to do in the morning - when I wasn't supposed to work - but it's really hard to do work ...with no computer.

And typically I'd get work emails on my personal blackberry -- but that recently stopped working too.

Again - so typical.

So after I get my inspection done, I get back to my house and continue trying to work on my dinosaur computer as much as I can until I get my new work laptop. And I walk in - and realize my fly was down the entire time I was at the gas station.


Then I head out to pick up my new work laptop and the following things occur:

-I try to put the Best Buy receipt for my other laptop in my car's console, while I'm driving. The console will not open. I finally yank it open at a stop light and realize I had shut it on the cord that ghetto-rigs my iPod into my radio. Ugh.

-I try to lean back and relax - and bang my knee on my steering wheel, painfully realizing we also have funny bones in our knees. I believe the State Inspection guy moved my seat up. Ugh.

-My wallet falls in the floor - and vomits coins AGAIN.

-I swerve to avoid what looks like a big rock - and I hit said rock and it makes a noise as if it just gutted the undercarriage of my car. Ugh.

-I get back and realize I may have accidentally thrown away a $25 gift certificate that was lying on my front seat. Ugh.

-but that was only AFTER I can't even GET IN MY GARAGE for a bit because some man has LEFT HIS CAR with THE DOORS OPEN in the driveway, blocking me and another car from getting in. I would've just started laughing at that point but I was too busy wishing him a painful death.

...now TODAY:

I go into D.C. to have my data transferred to my new work laptop by a nice IT guy from my company.

I come back and realize my fly was down.


I then proceed to dig through my trash for that $25 gift certificate, then go back out to my car:
And find the gift certificate.
I also find - THE SHARK'S TOOTH (aaand we've come full circle) which I guess had fallen out of my wallet when it vomited on my floorboard. Somewhere, there are two hippies laughing...

Later, I start to go for a run and remember my left tennis shoe now has a hole in the heel and hard plastic is sticking out. I go to find my other pair - they have THE SAME(!)PROBLEM. Which means I now have to spend about an hour and a half BUYING SHOES so I can run for about 50 minutes.

So then, frankly, I was a little scared to run, because who KNOWS what would happen next??

(thankfully nothing happened and I'm now blogging to procrastinate trying to work on homework. Let's hope I don't get another virus...)


Monday, August 15, 2011

Semester in Europe Part Five - Independent Travel

The culmination of our semester was the Independent Travel where we all got 10 days to break into whatever groups we wanted and see as many countries as we wanted. I was of course torn between a group who planned to hit a country a day (they ended up sometimes hitting TWO a day...my heroes...) or the group of 4 other girls I had gotten close to during our semester. I chose the second group and we ended up hitting Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and France.

Our trip started off with a glitch when we arrived in little sleepy Pisa, Italy....and one of the girl’s luggage did not.

We ended up having to stay an extra day to wait on her clothes to catch up and if you’ve never been to Pisa, you probably still know there is a famous Leaning Tower.

That’s about all there is.

So we’re already off schedule and stuck in one of the more boring places on our itinerary –but whatever, it’s an adventure!

Boy was it.

My memory is fuzzy so I can’t be sure where certain events took place now but the whole 10 days is sort of a blur. But certain things stick out:

1. Money exchange. They weren’t so much using the Euro back then so each country still had its own currency. We were quickly in a mathematic haze of wondering “How many dollars to pounds to francs is that? Wait, we’re now using Lira? How many Lira to Koruna? We’re back to pounds now? Did I just pay $200 for an icecream? What year is it?

2. Language. I discovered to my amusement that if I’m in a different country and they do not speak English – I try Spanish. Even if I’m in Prague. It’s like my brain is saying “oh, this one doesn’t work? How about this one then? That’s all the options we have in here, folks. Sorry.”

3. I have a welcoming face – this is a bad thing. I remember one lady tried to get my Coca Cola “for her baby”. My friend Tiff swooped in to rescue my deer-in-headlights self. Another time an Italian man came up to flirt aggressively with me IN A TUNNEL and my friend Jess stepped in front and made it known we were having none of it. Again, while I stood there like the Wimpy Gazelle in the herd...

4. Hostels. I think that was my first encounter staying in a hostel. And they’re all different. One you could be sleeping in a room with a dozen strangers, one you could have just for you and your friends, some had private baths, others had camp-style group bathrooms where you pad down the hallway in your showershoes. Some bedrooms were co-ed – some bathrooms were co-ed. It was really kind of a crap shoot.

One of the 5 girls in our group had what we called the Amazing Hostel Sheet that basically fit like a hooded sleeping bag and she could just lay that down on any bed and be good to go.

Me? I ended up in beds with mysterious brown stains and A USED BANDAID.



But it really makes me laugh at people now who use hand sanitizer because they just LOOK at a public place. I want to be like “let me tell you some of the places *I’VE* been! Then you can slather yourself up with rubbing alcohol!”

5. TRAINS. They will frustrate you all the time. If they aren’t off schedule, they’re on strike. They strike all the time in Europe. We missed an entire city in Italy because of a train strike. And it was Venice! The city I was most excited to see! (thankfully, it gave me an excuse to go back to Italy years later and tour around with a male soldier friend and I gotta say, that way is a little more fun than being with a bunch of girls anyway :) No offense ladies!)

And if the strikes and long random delays weren’t bad enough – we encountered OTHER mishaps as well. We nearly missed our train once and had to RUN down the platform to catch it.

And did you notice we were wearing GIANT BACKPACKS the whole time? Like packs half the size of us?? You really can’t “run” at all in that state. You kind of hurl your body forward while waddling back and forth. But we made it.

Another time, we were riding The Orient Express, I think to Paris...who knows at this point, and during the night at some point I walk back to the bathroom –

And the back half of our train is gone.

Like. Gone. Like, at some point, our train split in half and our half kept going and the back half went – who knows where! Good thing we accidentally got on the half going to where we intended!

Yet another time, we got on a super crowded train and had to split up. And we were so exhausted by this point that I found a table with clearly a group of friends sleeping around it – and I just sat down anyway. Whenever they woke in the morning and stared in surprise at me, I just closed my eyes again. Eh, it's Europe. Deal with it.

But while I was sleeping with strangers, MISSY-

was getting her wallet stolen.

During the night.

While it was UNDER HER HEAD.

The guy ran off and she had to go through the process of cancelling her credit cards and all that fun stuff. And it’s kind of funny because this girl loses her wallet ALL THE TIME. It was like we couldn’t go a few days without her losing SOMETHING (I love her – she’s still this way. I'm kinda that way too, hence why I love her.) So that actually wasn’t even that shocking.

And while the incidents definitely stand out in my head, of course we also had AMAZING times in each country and met the nicest people and even randomly saw other people from our Semester along the way. We’d be walking through Paris and come across a group of other kids from our college – it was great! Like we had literally taken over the world. And what was even better, was hearing THEIR war stories as well. People who didn’t have train tickets and kept having to hide from security, or one group that had a straight-up INTERVENTION with each other basically laying out what things they didn’t like about the other person –

While on a train. Figures.

I could talk for weeks about that semester (like how the semester was the start of 2000 -- when everyone was afraid the world was ending over Y2K, or how I randomly met an opera singer in Spain who gave me a backstage tour and free tickets to see his show that night -- or how we got to Versailles in Paris...the one day of the week it was closed, or how....) but I’ll end here with a few more photos. I’d love to do another backpack trip one day. It’s very liberating to literally have everything you need on your back. And there’s really few better ways to meet random people and have random adventures than just running around other countries with very little pre-planning. I’m so grateful I had a chance to experience all that.

Love you Cambridge Semester 2000!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Semester in Europe part four - Go Karts of Death and other random adventures

Before I finish this series with the culmination of our semester - the 10 day backpacking trek around Europe - there are a few other events I have to share about our time in Cambridge.

First, I can't say enough how gorgeous that city is. If you ever have a chance to visit, do it. "The Backs" of Cambridge University (literally the back of a bunch of the university buildings) run along the Cam river and the view is breathtaking. You can go "punting" down the river in a boat you push along with a stick like so:
(Byron looks like a pro here pushing my boat but later his punting stick gets stuck in the mud and we have to sheepishly paddle over to retrieve it in front of laughing locals.... seen below:)

or you could just walk around the colleges (or try to con students into letting you in some of the buildings...not that we tried to do that or anything...) or you could rebelliously take off running across the grass in one of the "courts" where it is only allowed to walk on the grass if you are a "Fellow". Of course I did it anyway.

Ok I didn't exactly run across.

Ok I just barely put my toe on the grass when no one was looking...sigh, I'm a horrible rebel...

But there are great stories from famous Fellows like when Lord Byron used to bathe naked in one of the fountains, etc. And the city is pretty in other parts too, like Jesus Green, the big park that we used to ride our bikes through:

We all were given bikes immediately to get around town with and I loved mine -- except for the first couple months we were there, it was freezing outside. The pic above was at the end of our trip when it got warm but before that, we had to wrap up like mummies to stand the ride into town. I always had long johns under my clothes and always had a scarf...

- wrapped around my face-

when I was on my bike. (When you are that cold, fashion goes out the window.)

But I'm telling you about the layers so you'll understand how much more funny it was


Well, we never actually saw the fire but the fire alarm definitely went off one day when a group of us were reading in our favorite bookstore, Waterstone's. And I just remember us giggling while running down an endless spiral staircase. And Missy (the Irish Yeller here) falls down the stairs, which of course makes us all laugh even harder because we are college kids with no hearts. And I'm in the back of the group and can't see anything because it's a spiral staircase and you can only see the step in front of you and only hear everything happening, say, 4 steps in front of you - like when a body hits the stairs and dissolves into giggles. So all I see-

are clothes.

A glove here. A scarf a few steps down. I guess in everyone's haste to run and in Missy's fall, some of their Bicycle Layers got left behind on the descent. So that's how I remember that day. Running down endless stairs while laughing and picking up random items of clothing.

Another day, we all went Go Karting! So random, but we actually had a lot of random field trips. (like to the Cadbury Chocolate factory! Which is where all the girls died and went to heaven. At least, after we rode around a weird "It's a Small World" type ride full of what looked like cartoon black beans on acid which we couldn't figure out until the end when someone yelled "OHHHHH! they're COCOA Beans!!!!" which continues to be a favorite phrase to yell when I see these friends...)

Anyway, "Karting" in England is more intense then Go Karts in the U.S. And to make matters worse, they split us into teams and pitted us against eachother. Here's after the race where a few of us look friendly again:

But looks can be deceiving.

People hit eachother.

Someone ran over a part of someone else's car.

Someone got whiplash.

And my team was all girls and We. Were. Determined. not to be outdone. And did I mention this was a relay? So you switch drivers every lap. We got to the point where we weren't even stopping the car completely, we'd scream at the other girl to just JUMP IN AND GO! GO! like maniacs. And we were doing really well -- until our car stalled. And we ended in last place.


But did you notice the flame retardant suits in the photo above? Yes. I'm telling you - intense. We had to wear helmuts and full body suits and there were warnings everywhere like “No Contact. Leave room for overtaking kart ahead. In case of emergency, stay in kart. Do not drive in wrong direction. Please drive carefully.” And because we had to make Scrapbooks at the end of our semester, here is part of a page in mine. Note the instructions we got before we drove (if you can't read it, it's basically listing the different ways you will likely crash and how you should wait for help) (also note the nice NASCAR background I used on this page. I hope my teachers enjoyed how seriously I took this whole Scrapbook thing...):

Excellent. That was seriously one of my favorite days...

Another favorite trip we took was to The Lakes District in England where we spent a week at a sort of "team building camp". We did everything from Ropes Courses to building our own rafts and sailing them in frigid waters.

And it rained. A lot. So we had to wear "waterproofs" like these:

and towards the end of a particularly wet hike, Tiffani decided to just slide down on her rear-end to get to the bottom faster -

Love her.

We were so cold and miserable on the bus ride back to Cambridge that when the bus stopped at a gas station, someone found shirts for sale in the station and several of us jumped at them. Mine was 3 sizes too big but I've never felt more in love with a piece of clothing in my life because it was DRY.

I still have that shirt.

Ok, ok, I promise to wrap this up soon. Next up, I'll end with our backpacking trek....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Semester in Europe Part Three - Erin Go Braugh

So back to reliving my semester overseas. I forgot to mention the other parts of Spain we visited on our weekend trip. We started in Segovia – which I learned holds the original "Cinderella" castle. Well, I was learning this in Spanish so the man could've been telling me HE lived in that castle for all I know. But I think he was telling me it's the one that Disney based Cinderella's on....(if he was telling me that was his castle, I so should've talked to him longer...)

And we also saw Madrid – which I loved. But we saw a real life Bullfight there. And maybe the Southerner in me was thinking Bull Riding rather than Bull Fighting but I surely did NOT know

-they KILL the bull.

So my eager friend Laura and I start the day ALL ABOUT THE BULL FIGHT. We’re wearing hats, we’re cheering, -- then as the fight goes on, our enthusiasm wanes. And wanes. And we realize the matador is NOT going to stop stabbing that bull until it was dead.

We were Horrified. Laura and I walked out somber and numb, shells of our former excited selves, and vowed never to watch a bull fight again.

Which is fine because there’s so many other traditions in the world I can still do. Like RUNNING with the bulls...

Anyway, that was one of two weekend trips I took during my semester. The other – was to Ireland.

Two of us, Missy and I, had already been to Ireland once on a church mission trip but there was one place we hadn't seen and were dying to -

The Cliffs of Moher.

(Cue angelic choir: *Ahhhhhhh!!!!*)

So for our other "Free Travel Weekend", Me, Missy, and our other friend Tiffani (good Southern Belle-sounding crew) decided to go to Ireland, hopefully to see these elusive cliffs.

Again, the details are fuzzy and I recently had to ask Tiffani to jog my memory, but long story short - we couldn't get to the cliffs without a car. So we looked at places we COULD get to, by bus. And the place we were offered?


The town's name is SPIT-TLE. We were thrilled....

But, determined to make the best of it, we jumped on the bus bound for Spittle. And have you ever been to Ireland? When it WASN'T raining? Yeah. Doesn't happen much. It rains a lot. And it rained that day. And at some point, Missy asks the bus driver where we are and they proceed to get in an argument (Missy, as her name suggests, is usually about as easy to argue with as Mother Theresa. I guess the rain and SECOND thrwarted attempt at seeing The Cliffs got to her) and the bus driver KICKS US OFF THE BUS.

Three little American girls. In the middle of nowhere Ireland. In the rain.

And as I'm reliving this with Tiffani, she says "I do remember you having to pee next to a cow."

I remember that too. And it was a bull. Not my finest momest.

In the end, we asked some people how to get to our original place and their answer?

By taking the bus you just got kicked off of.

Somehow we got back on later and the rest of the trip was pleasant and Missy and I even got to meet up with a friend we had made on our mission trip years before. I love Ireland. I love its stone fences and green pastures. But I have to admit - I was ready to see some more of Europe.

Thankfully, we still had our 10-day Independant Travel coming up...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Me and...Bobby Brown?

I'm taking a break in my Semester in Europe reminiscing to tell a story that happened just a few days ago. While several people reading this have already heard this story from me directly, I'm assuming the people who read this from India, Malaysia, Qatar, etc. (this is what my reader "stats" tell me anyway. I have no clue how blogs get around the world but I love it) probably haven't heard. Since, to my knowledge, I don't currently have friends in India, Malaysia or Qatar...but welcome! We are friends now!

So, I've complained talked a bit about how I'm taking grad school classes while still working full time. And I've mentioned how, like so many other things in my life, I basically got into school on a whim. I fell in love for the first time last year and AFTER we broke up (I broke up with him but it's a long story), we decided We Should Go To Grad School Together! Anyway! Wouldn't that be fun? Not unhealthy at all!

So I guess at the time I just wanted a reason to see him - so I applied. To Grad. School. I suppose I could've just, I don't know, DROPPED BY HIS HOUSE occasionally instead of committing thousands of dollars and YEARS of my life to something. But where's the stress-inducing, bank-account-reducing fun in that?

We both got accepted.

And he started dating someone else.

*gritted teeth grin* Oh that's fine! We can totally still be buddies and see each other in class each week and hang out after class and catch up ON LIFE WITH YOUR NEW GIRLFRIEND.

...I dropped the class three weeks in.

Well, switched to another class actually. So that's the reason I'm even in grad school at all at this point - sane, right?? - and he has since basically dropped the program altogether so most of the time I'm like "HOW again did I get into this??"

But "sort of accidentally falling into something" is surprisingly how a lot of great things happen in my life. So I'm going with it.

And I have to admit, there've already been some interesting things in my other classes. But nothing tops what happened - Last Week.

We were given partners in my Speech Writing class at the beginning of this semester. We haven't done much together until last week, when we were given an assignment to co-write a commercial, Billy Mays-style!, for a product of our choice. My partner emailed and asked if I had a product in mind already and since I didn't, she suggested -

The new Bobby Brown cd.

Oh...kay. That was fast. And specific. And random. But whatever, we can sell a CD just as easily as anything else. So I went to work on a script that basically made fun of everything about Bobby Brown.

(I'm sorry, but Billy Mays commercials are ridiculous and Bobby Brown's life is just too easy to take cheap shots at. I went for the low-hanging fruit. Sue me.)

I sent it to her and she was fine with the concept, and even started sending me more fodder on Brown's life. She said she was sort of an "expert" on Brown. (oh...kay...this girl Loves her some Bobby Brown...) but she did make a comment about how the script was maybe a tiny bit mean, but whatever, it was for a grade.

So we go back and forth and I send her my final draft and say "let me know if you have any changes - I hope it's not too mean" to which she replies: "Oh, it's fine. I'm just a little biased -


(She did not actually write in all caps but that's how my brain read that sentence) And that's where I blacked out. I'm sorry, wha? Your what?? Ima need more explanation than that, partner.

So I ask if she changed her name, since her last name is not Brown. And I also immediatly start Google-stalking her.

And sure enough - there is a YouTube video of them together and he calls her his sister. (He also punches her in the Ta Tas. She was being pinned for a military promotion and he sure did haul off and punch that pin in an unfortunate place...which does seem like something a sibling would do.) I was floored. Then she emails back and explains that while they aren't blood-related, their families are so close they might as well be.

Neat. I just wrote a script bashing the life of a guy you consider family. Thanks for the awkwardness! I told her I was then DYING and asked why she let me make fun of him. She laughed and said "girl, we needed our grade, and it's not like our commercial's going on YouTube or anything!"

Side note: my friends totally begged me to tape the presentation and put it on YouTube and I had refused. Bullet. Dodged. Barely.
So in the end, we got rave reviews on our script and a good grade and the whole thing was funny. But I definitely said "please tell BOBBY BROWN(!) that I didn't mean it and that I love his music."

Really never thought I'd be saying that in my lifetime.

Below is the script so you can cringe at my expense (It was coupled with video direction like 'cut to Bobby's mugshot' or 'cut to Bobby failing at Celebrity Fit Club'...sigh. Me = Horrible. Person. It really was just supposed to be light-hearted and I didn't spend much time on it...I'm sorry Bobby!...(seriously, how do these things happen to me...) Enjoy:
Are you tired of listening to boring music?

Are you uninspired by artists who seem to have it all together?

Do you wish your music artists made you feel better about your own life?

Then do I have an album for you!

Bobby Brown’s: The Masterpiece.

Imagine grooving to new songs from the man who brought you My Prerogative, Every Little Step, and Rock Witcha -

While feeling superior that your life, is better than Brown’s.

Did you get kicked out of New Edition at the age of 16 in a spiral of drug abuse?

Did you have an insane relationship with Whitney Houston that lasted 14 years?

Did you have to face your weight problems on national t.v.?

No! And each time you enjoy The Masterpiece – you’ll be able to see how your life is a Masterpiece...Compared to Bobby Brown.

For just 12.99 you can enjoy good music that makes you feel better about your life.

So let go of that boring pop music sung by do–gooders on your ipod. Start feeling superior that your life has been pretty productive compared to the creators of your music. It’s your prerogative!

Get your copy of The Masterpiece on September 6th. Only at Target.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Semester in Europe Part Two – Weekend de los Locos

“Does the smell of gunpowder excite you? Does the sight of flames make you smile? Do you secretly harbor pyrotechnic urges that are only socially acceptable on the Fourth of July? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Las Fallas of Valencia is your kind of event--a loud, smoky, high-spirited fiesta where the whole town is literally set ablaze!” (http://www.donquijote.org/culture/spain/fiestas/lasfallas.asp)
That is what I just found as a description of the festival I attended in Valencia, Spain during my Semester In Europe. My friends and I did NOT read about Las Fallas before we went (of course, I would TOTALLY have wanted to go if I had) but we not only didn’t read up beforehand – we had no idea the festival was going on.

Like many adventures in my life, I was kind of along for the ride. I don’t remember who decided what cities we’d visit or where we planned to stay. But I do know someone wanted to see the coastal town of Valencia. And what we got when we arrived was a surprise. To say the least.

Because of the festival, there were NO hotel rooms – anywhere. The first night, we were driving around in our Renault Elf –

If you’ve never seen an Elf, it’s roughly the size of a Matchbox car. There were four of us in one.
And we end up getting in some questionable parts of the city and the only male in our car suggests we just park and sleep in the car.

I quickly convinced everyone otherwise.

So the first thing that popped into my mind? The airport.

I have no idea why, but I just figured that was a place that was well-lit, had security, and would let us crash all night without asking questions.

So we spent the first night sleeping in an airport.

We went back into the city the next morning and entered the CRAZIEST street fest I’ve ever experienced in my life. All the towns around Valencia build these GIANT paper-mache statues like this:

And for a week, the whole town PARTIES. IT. UP. And not necessarily in a Mardis Gras debaucherous way, but just like – all hours of the day and
night people are on the streets. Dancing, tossing around firecrackers, riding carnival rides, etc.

There were families out all night and little girls in grandiose traditional dresses.

And at the end of the week-long fest?

They set all the statues on fire. Yessss.

The spirit was contagious. Our little homeless, Elf-stuffed group of four was already starting to tread on each other's nerves but once we entered that scene, it was like -Freedom. We quickly started riding the rides, joining the dances, and talking to the locals.

I remember one store owner fell in LOVE with us and forced us to take these little ceramic Owls with us, even though we hadn’t bought anything from her. She was so excited at our little na├»ve American faces that she was GIGGLING while handing us those owls and telling us they were “good luck! “good luck!”

We got back out on the streets and got Las Fallas bandanas.

Everyone had one so we loved wearing ours and mingling with the crowds while dodging smoke every little bit from random firecrackers. Exhilarating. I have no clue when we finally went to bed. But I do know –

We still had no bed.

So while we stayed in the airport the first night, the second night –

We stayed on the beach.

Well, two of us did. The other two slept inside Elf. And before we got to that point, we had to “get ready for bed” –

In a public bathroom with a broken door in a restaurant .

I distinctly remembering TAKING OUT MY CONTACT LENSES over a dirty sink while pushing the door against an intruder and probably yelling “occupado!” I felt like such a nomad. (And kinda loved it)

But the best part was, when we parked at the beach, it was dark. Two of our group just found some sand and went to bed. By morning –

The entire beach was filled with other sleepers.

Apparently we weren’t the only crazies who hadn’t planned ahead for lodging.

That was an amazing part of my semester. But that was just one weekend.

Next time, I'll tell you about our weekend in Ireland and our 10 Day Backpacking Trip Around Europe.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Semester in Europe Part One

I'm feeling the urge to travel. I thought I could make it a whole year without an international trip but I'm feeling the need for adventure. I'm also feeling the need to look up from my own life and forget about any personal issues. My friends and I have sheepishly discussed how we only have "First World Problems," as in, we get distressed when our iPhones break or we aren't feeling motivated at our office jobs anymore.

As opposed to - we're living with genocide or we can't find clean water to sustain our life. You know, problems that are a tiny bit larger than our own.

That's one side effect I love about visiting developing countries. Perspective.

But I also love just good old random adventure and I've had that in all kinds of "civilized" parts of the world too - like Europe.

When I was a junior in college, I was fortunate enough to get accepted to our college's Semester In Europe program. They take like 20 undergrads and ship them off to live in a quaint little bed and breakfast in picturesque Cambridge, England. We take classes from Cambridge University professors on history and English and we do our own independent study on a topic of our choice and take field trips around Europe. So technically it's a scholastic endeavor -- but really it's free reign to run around cool countries for three months.

That semester literally changed my life because not only did it open me up to travel/independence even more than I already was, but living every second of every day with 20 other people is ENLIGHTENING. It's like having little mirrors constantly in your face, showing you the flaws in your personality. (Sounds like fun, right?) On more than one occasion, I saw (or had) breakdowns where someone just couldn't take either someone else or themselves anymore. Which is hilarious looking back on now but it was really useful for personal growth too. And many of the friends I had on that trip are still some of my favorite friends ever. We have that sort of rapport where you can go years without talking, and fall right back into complete comfort and understanding when you see each other.

But I know you don't come to this blog for my contemplations about life and personal growth so much as you come -- for the incidents. There were several in that three month period.

One involved a frequent issue of mine - dental work. I have horrible luck with teeth. I recently had a dentist say "You have all 32 teeth! You're unique!" to which I replied "and how many of those DON'T have fillings?" Her reply:

"Um...like 8?"

Yes. I've had more fillings than I can remember, 3 roots canals (one on the WRONG TOOTH which I'll explain some other time), and my jaw isn't set right so only THREE of my teeth even touch when I chew.

That's more than you ever wanted to know about me but you can now see why I was not surprised when I arrived in England and quickly got - a toothache.

And since I have so much experience with dental work, I knew this was not a good sign. And you know where you DO NOT want to have to use dental services?


No offense, Britain, but I'd heard too many quips about the British having bad teeth that I was not pleased to need dental work right off the bat.

Fortunately, it was only a gum infection and only required drugs. But, that was one of the first things I remember happening right in Cambridge. The other favorite stories I have from that semester mostly involved the travel we did outside Cambridge.

Like the weekend 4 of us went to Spain on a whim.

We were given a couple weekends during the semester for "independent" travel - IF we got our schoolwork done first. If you've followed this blog at all, you know I have a little problem with time management occasionally. So of course I was down to the wire on this one.

I owed 5 pages of something, I don't remember if it was a journal or a paper or what, but I remember needing to rewrite it so it was legible (I'm a Lefty -- we are known for penmanship about like England is known for dentistry...) so I remember sitting ON THE FLOOR in the hotel lobby with the other three Spain-trip friends and each person is sprawled out next to their luggage, RECOPYING A PAGE BY HAND -

and the taxi is ON THE WAY to take us to the airport.

I'm forever indebted to those friends for helping me because as pathetic as all those frantically scribbled pages looked combined, it was enough for my teacher to release me for the weekend. Hallelujah!

So that began Our Crazy Spanish Adventure.

Which I'll tell you about next post :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Resume Ramblings

In my line of work, you work on projects. They can be for one day or for many years. But whenever they end, you have to find another one. I'm currently on the market for my next one and my philosophy is, Go Big Or Go Home, so instead of just sticking to my "team" within our company - I've reached across ALL the teams in our company. Just to see what might be available. I mean, maybe I'm actually really gifted at Rocket Science and just haven't had an opportunity to test that out, ya know?

So of course this casting-the-net-wide approach to finding a project has returned some interesting responses and I had to start laughing after one too many replies asking "do you know how to do this?" "do you have experience in this?" "how 'bout this?" I told my coworker that I expected to start getting emails like "how about underwater basket weaving?” "dental hygienist?" "used car sales?" And my answer is always "not specifically, but I’m willing to try..."

It reminded me of a story an old friend told me about her time as an Army Mechanic (a profession she thoughtlessly chose after she "came off a three month bender"). When I asked her if she knew what she was doing as a mechanic, she said "Nope. You just hammered it 'til it fit, then painted it to match!"

HA! I feel like I'm trying to do that to myself these days....

Anyway, one man recently looked at my experience and could not stop saying "You have a lot of 'oh crap! Stuff's going down!' expertise!" referring to all the jobs I've had dealing with national disasters. (Incidentally, I was also recently told I should wear Caution Tape around me, but that was referring to my Disastrous Dating life and how it was only fair to warn unsuspecting suitors, so not really work-related, but I digress...)

I thought his description was hilarious. I suppose that's one way to put it. Maybe that should be a bullet point on my resume. "Deals nicely in Oh Crap! environments"

Side note: An acquaintance of mine once had someone give him a resume with a bullet point that said, "Can withstand large amounts of pain for prolonged periods of time." I had to be impressed by that, but wonder - what kind of job was that person LOOKING for that would necessitate that skill??

Anyway, I really hate writing about my experience and tailoring my resume, etc. We have annual assessments at my firm and every year I find myself just wanting to say "I did a bunch of things. Well. The end." I'm horrible at remembering details and I always walk the line of "did I overstate that or understate that?" Like, "Can I call myself Her Majesty of PowerPoint Presentations, or is that a stretch?...."

Usually I understate - and that is not good either. I once had a manager talk through my assessment with me and someone else who was talking better about me than I was. Everything was accurate, but it was worded in a way that even I was impressed. Like, "I did that? Really? I should get a RAISE!"

After the discussion, my manager looked at me and said:

"I had no idea what you've been doing. I was treating you like some old shoe!"

Some. Old. Shoe. Excellent title....

Another Side Note: I once had a client who insisted I ride with him in between meetings on a trip we were on. I had set up the meetings, prepared briefs, etc. I even mapped out directions just in case our local driver needed them. The "title" my client gave me for that trip? SHERPA. Now you might think that's a respectful title given what Sherpa's actually do, but I'm fairly certain he just meant I was the "Briefing Book Lug-Arounder" Sigh.

So I'm now re-tailoring my resume almost daily and struggling to figure out what exactly my real skills are. And what I actually enjoy doing. "Thrives in Chaos" is definitely a skill I have. "Enjoys coordinating a hundred different things simultaneously". "Has a very random network so if you DO need a Rocket Scientist, I know a guy..."

Anyone out there have similar problems? Am I the only one in her 30's who still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

You May Not Want to Read This One During Lunch

I recently had a meeting at the Pentagon, which happens to be where a good friend of mine works. And she's raved about a workout class there that is so tough she nearly vomits. This is a friend I've had numerous adventures with, including some crazy sporting activities like adventure races and deciding one day that -We Should Row Crew! So she and I actually get excited about activities that make you nearly vomit.

Because we are tough chicks like that.

(not really. She is maybe, but I think my Goldfish Poodledom takes over and I just get Really Excited about new things, even if said things are causing me pain...for possible explanation, see: Where I Huffed Burning Styrofoam During College here)

Anyway, I was explaining this to a man in my meeting and his response was:

"There are much easier ways to vomit than taking a workout class."

Which made me laugh becuase obviously the vomiting itself is not WHY we like the class, it's the fact that the class is so challenging it makes you want to die. Why can't anyone understand why that's a good quality?

Anyway, all this talk of vomiting makes me laugh for another reason because when I think back to some of my favorite stories, many of them have one unfortunate thing in common - me tossing my cookies somewhere totally inappropriate.

I started thinking about different places/activities that have fallen victim to my inopportune nausea...

And once again, this all may be TMI, but I can explain each one. And because I'm supposed to be writing a paper and don't want to, I WILL explain each one :)

You're welcome.

The first and fourth photos, I've already explained here and here. One happened right after crossing the finish line in a 1/2 marathon and one was because I got seasick...while surfing. Sigh.

The second refers to a family vacation to Cancun which I'll tell more about later. But basically, my dad and I tried snorkling together. And after smelling exhaust on the little boat that took us out to sea, then struggling a bit in the water (I'll explain that later too), we climb back on the boat - nauseous. And I kid you not, my dad and I are all smiling, climbing back into the boat. And we stand up, look at eachother -

then both turn and lose it over the side of the boat simultaneously.

It was a sort of bonding experience that really never needs to be repeated.

The third photo refers to a mud hut I helped build in Ethiopia. It belonged to a sweet grandma who had been living without a roof - so she was very happy to see us. At least until I lost my breakfast...on her property. Correction, I didn't lose my breakfast - that was the problem. I hadn't eaten anything - but I had taken a malaria pill. Apparently that can make you sick! So here I arrive with my church group all smiling, ready to build this woman's house - and I immediatly get sick in her yard. REAL nice gift from America.

The last photo refers to one of my many "Chinatown Bus" trips to NYC. Those busses take you from D.C. to New York in about four hours for about the cost of a few Starbucks Mochas.

I take them all the time because I'm cheap.

But you get what you pay for and I've had several incidents on them, which I'll tell some other time. But THIS incident in particular was because I had the brilliant plan to CHANGE CLOTHES IN THE BATHROOM on the way. And I don't know if you have ever spent much time in the back of a bus swirving into the largest city in America, but it's not a peaceful ride.

And I got sick.

(Shockingly, I also got asked out on a date...but that's another story too)

And one of the craziest times does not have a representative photo because it was in someone else's yard --

My childhood piano teacher's.

This was NOT when I was a child. I was in college. And once again, I was with my father.

I've mentioned I spent the first 13 years of my life in Washington State. After my family moved to the South, we went back to visit a couple times. On one trip, my relatives passed on a lovely 24-hour bug - aka violent stomach flu - to me. And because I was determined to still run around and reminisce (and because I'm Scared Of Boredom and didn't want to stay inside all day), I still went touring around with my dad.

And every 20 minutes or so- we'd have to pull over.

And my dad is awesome and also didn't want to be bored inside all day so he stuck with me anyway. And I always felt fine right after I got sick, but then it'd always come back, sometimes without real warning.

So on my list of people I wanted to visit, was my old Piano Teacher. We get all the way to her house and I'm thinking "oh great, I'm starting to feel sick and will have to be like 'Hi! Remember me? Can I use your restroom?!'"

But it's even worse.

No one answers the door. And now I really do feel sick -

and I lose it in bushes in her front yard.

I JUMP back in my dad's truck and I'm like "just go! just go!" and we SCURRY away, hoping no one HAD been home and saw that.

I can still picture how completely insane that would've looked:

"Jay", my piano teacher's son (who was cute and my age): "Mom? Do you remember Dana from like 6 years ago? Used to take lessons here for 8 years but moved to the other side of the country? I'm pretty sure she just drive-by-vomited in our front yard! I wonder how long she's been doing that?"